The GeeksverseForgotten Legend: Gary E. Friedrich

Forgotten Legend: Gary E. Friedrich
Published on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 by

Comicvine.com describes Gary Friedrich as “Writer, editor for Marvel during the 60s and 70s, including a long run on Iron Man” although that is not how Friedrich is attempting to sell himself these days. Friedrich was a Marvel writer on a diverse list of titles including Iron Man, Sgt. Fury, Two Gun Kid, Millie the Model, Monsters Unleashed, and other works. He penned and/or edited everything from tights to westerns and from teen drama to monsters. However, at the Charlotte Herocon he listed only one title above his table: Ghost Rider.

Ghost Rider #1 lists Gary Friedrich as the writer, although that is not the first appearance of the legendary character. Marvel Spotlight #5 debuted the flame headed character with rip-roaring daredevil action and Gary Friedrich writing. Gary Friedrich only wrote seven issues of the original 1973 run of Ghost Rider, but he created the character. Gary Friedrich returned to the character in 1992 with the July relaunch of the flame headed Marvel icon. These writing stints make Gary E. Friedrich a Ghost Rider essential.

Check at Marvel’s digital comics for Ghost Rider. Look at the left of the screen under creators. Where is Gary Friedrich? Gil Kane is on the list. Is that just because Ghost Rider’s 1973 run has not been digitized? They also missed the 1992 reboot? It seems Marvel is missing a Ghost Rider essential.

At the HeroCon in Charlotte, I met Friedrich, shook his hand, and bought a signed trading card. The entire table was set up to capitalize on his status as Ghost Rider creator. He was selling signed back issues, posters, prints, trading cards, reproductions of the original scripts first page, etc. He had a picture of himself with Stan Lee on the table. He also had very little line. Across the hall Neal Adams had a booth with a set of standees to control the crowd and shape the line.

To justify Neal Adams’ set up as a featured guest with a special table set up, it should be noted that the convention organizer has been courting Adams to appear since the late 80s, and that Adams is still doing projects that are recognizable to the fan community. Gary Friedrich has slipped from the comic shop shelf and has thus been forgotten by many. The controversy and lawsuit has probably also slipped Friedrich from the comic shop shelf. It is doubtful that Friedrich will be back penning Ghost Rider in the future.

The controversy, and lawsuit, happened something like this. In the 2000s, Friedrich expressed public disagreement about the genesis of the supernatural Ghost Rider. In 2001, Roy Thomas claimed that he made up the original Ghost Rider, but it was a lack luster villain for Daredevl called Stunt-Master. Stunt-Master was a faceless motorcyclist. Thomas claims that when Friedrich started writing Daredevil he wanted to change Stunt Master to something a little cooler: Ghost Rider. Thomas further asserts he suggested that sounded too cool to just be a villain and that Friedrich should do something else with it, hence the creation of Ghost Rider as a separate cooler character. That is a cool anecdote but does it constitute creation? Especially when Stunt-Master and Ghost Rider only share motorcycle riding, which many characters were doing in that era? Thomas also says that he and Mike Ploog helped design the flame head character which helps justify his claim as co-creator.

Friedrich notes the disagreement over being a sole or co-creator. Apparently Friedrich threatened on more than one occasion that if Marvel made a movie to sue them for creator status. Historically movies have been the impetus for creator suits. Friedrich holds that the flaming skull character is his. He sued to that effect.

On April 4, 2007, Friedrich filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court – Southern District of Illinois, against Marvel Enterprises, Sony Pictures, Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures, Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Michael DeLuca Productions, Hasbro and Take-Two Interactive, alleging his copyrights to the Ghost Rider character have been exploited and utilized in a “joint venture and conspiracy”. The lawsuit states that the film rights and merchandising reverted from Marvel to him in 2001. The case was transferred to the federal New York State Southern District Court on February 14, 2008.

How does it end? Check your Ghost Rider DVD to see who it lists as the creator of the might Marvel motorcyclist.

In the end, it is doubtful that Friedrich will be back penning the flame headed character in the near future. His table at Herocon had comics that he could have purchased at any store and signed, as well as posters and prints drawn by artists. They were however all stylistic renderings of the flame head. It was clear who they were but they weren’t quite Marvel. Herb Trimpe’s motorcycle had a nice colorful paint job.

Gary Friedrich, a Ghost Rider essential, is an undervalued legend of Marvel’s 70s. If you have a chance to meet him then I would recommend it. Friedrich will be appearing at Wizard World in August, and its blurb too does not up sell the conflicted biker hero.

Gary Friedrich, best known as the creator of Ghost Rider, was a writer/editor in Stan Lee’s Marvel Bullpen from 1966 through 1978. During that period he scripted most of the Marvel characters including The X-Men, Iron Man, Capt. America , Daredevil. He was the first writer other than Stan Lee to script The Incredible Hulk, and he wrote many issues of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos as well as the Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.He also wrote numerous horror stories for Marvel in the seventies and scripted the first several issues of Monster of Frankenstein with Ghost Rider artist Mike Ploog. And he wrote numerous humor scripts for Not Brand Echh.

Ghost Rider #1 “A Woman Possessed!”
Gary Friedrich writer
George Roussos colorist
Gil Kane penciler, cover
John Costanza letterer, cover
Roy Thomas
Syd Shores inker
Tom Sutton penciler

Marvel Spotlight #5
Gary Friedrich writer
John Costanza letterer
Mike Ploog penciler, inker
Roy Thomas editor

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